“Your life sucks!” Mauldin yelled...
That’s a context-free highlight (one of the tamer ones) from the unhinged free-for-all event we’ve all come to know as the Whiskey Bar, which went down last night at the Fairmont’s British Columbia Ballroom.
For 2011, this rogues gallery consisted of Agora Financial talents Chris Mayer, Byron King, and Patrick Cox and Eric Fry (as MC), Whiskey & Gunpowder’s Gary Gibson, plus invited Symposium speakers John Mauldin, Barry Ritholtz -- and the inimitable Whiskey Bar staple, Doug Casey.
As one of the charter Editors of W&G, this event holds special meaning for me -- since I had the good fortune of sharing the stage with some of these same characters in 2007 and 2008.
And it’s true, I found myself practically jumping out of my seat to interject at various points. I was dying to give Mr. Mauldin in particular both barrels about one thing he said. Who cares if he’s rich, brilliant, and writes for the New York Times -- I still think he’s dead wrong about oil...
But I’m here to observe and report, not participate. Besides, Eric took care of it for me, though in a slightly less kinetic way than I would have.
What can I say? He has a rapier wit -- mine’s a Louisville Slugger.
It happened around 16 minutes into the event -- which had warmed up with a lot of laughs as MC Fry asked everyone to share their favorite movie, philosopher, and cocktail (Byron took the laugh prize, with Patton, Patton, and Molotov)...
But then it got down to the nitty-gritty of issues and investment plays for the future. Mauldin was almost three minutes (I timed it) into a rambling monologue about the pace of technological change in the world, when he tossed in this grenade:
“Who cares about peak oil? We won’t be using the stuff. The world is going to change so much faster than you can possibly...”
That’s when Fry -- in a priceless piece of comic timing -- deftly interjected: “Byron, how are those next-generation solar Boeing planes coming along?”
Of course, Byron had a different take. The right one, if you ask me...
“It’s going to take decades or generations, in my view, for these things to change. It took probably 75 years for the incandescent light bulb to become the world standard... It took 100 years for steam-powered electric generating turbines to become a standard feature around the...”
“WRONG!” Mauldin thundered.
His evidence: “Fourteen million i-Pads were sold this year. The adoption curve for technology is on such a ramp-up... You’re going back to a model that was SO 1980s.”
Hmmm. I know these guys are brilliant -- and I’m just a gun-toting rube who eats too few vegetables...
But I’m having a hard time understanding how the widespread adoption of the computer interface equivalent of the touch-tone phone equates to a new world standard of energy that’ll obsolete hydrocarbons...
That was just the beginning, though.
Thinking about gold?
Gary says you should buy nickels instead. “Give the bank $100, they give you back $120 in metal.” A fringe benefit: “If you have $10,000 worth of nickels in your house, whoever breaks in won’t get away with more than like forty bucks.”
Priceless. I could never truly do this event justice in print -- so I’m just going to hit you with some of the juicier sound bites from the discussion. I won’t even attribute them. But if you’re sharp and know the players here, you can probably guess:
“I don’t want to give you a rant on fascism -- it would offend too many Americans... The U.S. is unquestionably a fascist state.”
“I just want to know when my cholesterol-eating nano-bot will be here...”
“You’re going to be able to take this technology, put it on a drone, and blow the crap out of people with turbans on their heads in Afghanistan.”
“They already attached it to a Roomba, and weaponized the Roomba...”
“The most dangerous job in the world today is the #3 man in the Taliban... You’ll notice whenever some senior guy in the Taliban is killed, it’s always the #3 guy.”
“The market’s an idiot... The markets don’t know Jack.”
“All these Hitler-like dogs... all these sociopaths have very acceptable social veneers.”
“Tuscany is not a country.”
“All these damn countries cover the Earth like a skin disease.”
“...You-know-who is going to sell off the whole Strategic Petroleum Reserve...”
“I advocate the active default on the U.S. debt.”
“The situation’s hopeless -- but it’s not serious.”
“Immortality may suck, and it’s not worth it.”
“People are going to die, because of these a**holes from Chicago.”
“The average American is such is whipped dog... If the American people weren’t such wussies, they’d storm into Washington and they’d replicate the execution of Mussolini on every lamppost...”
I think it was the best (and funniest) Whiskey Bar event I’ve ever seen. And like I said, I could never do it justice in print.
But you can hear it all for yourself in the CD/MP recordings of the Symposium -- I’ll show you how to get ‘em below.
Before I do that, though, let me cut you in on some highlights from the stunning array of seminars I was able to attend today...
This is the one I was waiting for, above all others.
I just love the way Chris thinks about money and investing. And his presentations are always really funny and chock full of info and picks.
His You Can’t Make This Stuff Up seminar this year was no different.
Mayer kicked it off with a selection of the most hilariously off-kilter, screwball, and just plain nutty clippings from the government, Wall Street, so-called industry leaders, and the major media over the last year. Here are just a few of these...
From Bloomberg, 8/6/10:
Christina Romer, who chairs the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the U.S. needs stronger job growth to lower the nation’s unemployment rate.
Really? Stronger job growth? Now why didn’t I think of that?
From the USDA, 4/6/11, regarding their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):
It is estimated that at least 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs are created from $1 billion of SNAP benefits.
$112,359 to create one job? Sounds about right for the U.S. government...
From Newsweek, 11/5/10:
The renewed willingness and confidence to spend money we don’t have is vital to the continuing recovery.
I here I thought that credit-card mentality is what necessitated the recovery!
And this gem, from the Wall Street Journal on 7/1/11:
"If we can figure out how to pass our costs to our customers, we'd have a very successful company..." (American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey)
After some laughs at these and others, Mayer got down to brass tacks. To explain the reasons why Wall Street and rank and file investors continue to get burned in the markets, Mayer turned to some basic psychology.
As it turns out, analysts aren’t objective -- they’re across-the-board optimistic.
Research shows that when analysts were off the mark on predicting market returns, only 23% of the time had they underestimated returns...
Yet they’d overestimated returns a whopping 79% of the time. These findings stayed consistent in bull markets and bear.
Other research reveals a very interesting correlation between the amount of information humans use to make decisions -- and the accuracy of those decisions.
As it turns out, beyond a few basic facts, additional information has NO valid association with the accuracy of decisions we make. In fact, some evidence suggests that our ability to make correct decisions goes down with more information...
However, additional information has a profound affect on our confidence in those decisions. But confidence does not equal accuracy.
Mix it all together, and you get this:
“You can’t rely on forecasts at all,” says Chris. He likens them to a Rorschach Test: “We see what we want to see... as a species, we’re very optimistic.”
But one doesn’t need to be an optimist to see the merits of the four stocks he went on to reveal. The facts and numbers behind them are pretty hard for rational humans to see in any way but greedy.
I can’t reveal them here (it wouldn’t be fair to paying show attendees)...
But you can get the complete rundown on them -- names, tickers, company details, the works -- in your CD or MP3 Symposium recordings. And there are even more Mayer picks in your FREE companion guide with all of our speakers’ specific recommendations for this year.
You’ll get a shot at ordering these at a significant discount below.
Now, let’s move on to another speaker I was eagerly awaiting...
Gary’s presentation, The Comeback: How Innovation will Restore the American Dream, surprised me the most of any I’ve seen so far.
That’s because I expected it to basically be a cheerleading session for the latest and greatest techno-gadgetry -- since Gary’s the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association...
And “trons” just aren’t what floats my boat.
As long as I don’t have rabbit-ears on my TV, my phone doesn’t have a dial on it, and my computer monitor’s not monochrome green-and-black, I don’t pay much attention to electronics.
But I DO pay attention to things like American entrepreneurship, innovation, government waste, cluelessness, and corruption...
And these things were the underpinnings of Gary’s presentation.
Sure, he revealed four coming mega-trends in consumer electronics he sees coming down the pike. For the tron-o-philes, they are:
- The utilization of spectra formerly reserved for traditional broadcast TV to eliminate the “wireless wait” that plagues PDA, smart-phone and tablet computer users in many areas
- The adaptation of automobiles for all manner of informational applications, and for sophisticated technologies like auto-pilot and collision avoidance and learning GPS systems
- Electronic, integrated home health-care and diagnostic devices
- Advancements in “sensing” technologies -- from automatic light switches and appliances, air quality sensors, security systems, home aid devices and more
But the heart of his presentation was an expose of what American government is doing wrong -- and how they’re killing our ability to compete and innovate with their waste, corruption, overspending, and flawed policy.
Like the fact that 48% of people in America receive some kind of check from the government...
Like the fact that we keep extended and enhancing unemployment, even though studies show that it’s the tendency of people who are in the system to stay in it until it’s exhausted...
Like the fact that we’re failing to foster free trade, and the immigration of the best and brightest minds -- which is what made our nation great.
Though Gary’s are strong words of warning, he’s definitely in the fight camp. And his advice to us isn’t to “buy more Blu-rays” or “get plugged in” or any of the things you’d expect from the President of a major consumer electronics lobby...
Instead, he says simply: “Hold your politicians accountable.”
Now, speaking of accounting...
EGON VON GREYERZ
Everyone told me not to miss this guy. “Great” and “informative” is what they said about his speeches in years’ past...
But they failed to mention “horrifying.”
Trust me, as a long-time Agoran, I’ve seen my share of doom and gloom. It usually doesn’t even phase me to hear this stuff anymore -- not even the fact that it’s all coming true.
Water off a duck’s back, you know?
So perhaps the most descriptive thing I could say about Egon von Greyerz’ presentation -- Return to the Dark Years: Will the Inevitable Consequences of 100 Years of Money Printing and Credit Creation be Hyperinflation, World Economic and Financial Collapse? -- is this:
It made me come more or less unglued with fear.
Seriously, I was so transfixed in horror at the nightmare scenario that Egon proved is coming with more graphs, charts, numbers and analysis than I thought could fit in 50 minutes, that I barely took notes. Thankfully, his seminar was the last one before lunch, and I had time immediately afterward to get some of these things on paper...
It all started just a few seconds in, when Egon cut loose with this statement:
“There are three kinds of money: Money which is already worthless, money that will become worthless (with a picture of a $US100 bill), and there’s real money, gold.”
Clearly, von Greyerz isn’t in the Bernanke “Gold isn’t money” camp.
While we’re on Bernanke, I’ve never seen anyone put what “Helicopter Ben” is doing into more stark perspective than what Egon did at the beginning of his speech...
According to von Greyerz, 100,000 average Americans would have to work the next 330 years at today’s average salary to pay off what Bernanke and company have added to the national debt this year alone.
Even more frightening than that are the REAL facts behind inflation. Using multiple charts and graphs, Egon shows us how U.S. debt has increased every year since 1960 (the 1990s “surplus” was fiction, he says)...
How the debt ceiling has been increased 78 times since then...
And how, starting in 1800, it took the U.S. dollar until 1967 to double from inflation. But since 1971, when Nixon abandoned the Gold Standard, dollar inflation has skyrocketed, whether the government’s reporting it or not.
“Nixon should not have been impeached for Watergate,” say Von Greyerz. “He should have been shot for abolishing the Gold Standard.”
Over the last century, every single currency on Earth has declined between 97% and 99% against gold, says von Greyerz. The U.S. dollar is one of the worst offenders among major economies. According to Egon, the buck has lost 84% of its value just since 1999!
What’s that mean?
It means we’re up the creek, that’s what it means...
“These unfunded liabilities will never be paid in normal money,” von Greyerz warns. “I can absolutely guarantee: Your pensions will not be paid, you will not have Medicare. There will not be enough money...”
Like I said above: Horrifying.
How can you do safeguard against this, you’re asking?
Well, you can buy physical gold, and store it safely. But that’s easier said than done...
Fortunately, von Greyerz has the answer to that problem. His firm is among the world’s best at brokering and storing clients’ privately owned gold in special, tax-free vaults underneath Zurich airport.
More details on this are in your CD/MP3 recordings of the 2011 Symposium -- and in the special companion report with the specific investment recommendations of all of this year’s speakers.
After Egon’s presentation, the words of an acknowledged anarchist will be downright soothing....
There’s only one Doug Casey. And that’s more than enough for most people.
But one thing’s for certain about him: He’s a big draw.
His seminar on Thursday morning was standing room only, with people crowding in long after it began, sitting on stairs, leaning along the walls -- even sitting on the floor for a chance to hear the legend...
And “the legend” did not disappoint.
According to the Symposium schedule, Case was supposed to deliver a seminar called The Greater Depression is the Least of Your Worries.
But soon after he took the podium, he went completely off script, saying, “What I want to talk about now is terrorism. Terrorism is something everybody talks about, and thinks they know about -- but I don’t think they really do.”
He kicked off his presentation by contrasting the various definitions of terrorism according to the FBI and FEMA (which Casey calls “stupid”) with his own definition, which is:
A tactic employed more for psychological purposes than for physical damage, intended to de-legitimize the state, often by getting it to overreact.”
Casey went on to say that both the French and American revolutions were steeped in acts of terrorism...
And interestingly enough, according to Doug, resulted in less freedom for citizens of the resulting republic. But that was a digression. Remember, this was more or less improvised.
Casey’s larger point, which he built up using several historical examples, is this:
Terrorism is like shrimp.
Turns out, Doug was making reference to how many ways shrimp can be prepared (as described by Bubba in the movie Forrest Gump) -- and with new ways hitting the scene with regularity. Just like terrorism...
“How do you recognize it?” asks Casey. “It’s constantly evolving and mutating...”
Also, there’s the problem of perspective. What’s terrorism to one nation is heroism to another. He uses the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut as an example. “If 250 Islamic soldiers were in New York,” says Casey, “I would hope some American would do the same to them.”
Yet according to most modern definitions, it would be considered terrorism to do so. Casey’s point, if I understand it correctly, is that whether or not a thing is an act of terrorism or heroism depends on which foot the shoe is on.
Beyond such philosophical ruminations, however, is the underlying truth (no matter what your definition of the term is) that terrorism is a very effective tactic.
According to Casey, the capital cost of terrorism is close to zero. But the costs to victim states -- both in sustaining it and fighting it -- are enormous...
Examples: An IED in Iraq costs virtually nothing, yet the U.S. humvee and crew it blows up are worth millions in training, insurance, and outfitting.
Same with an RPG and a U.S. tank -- or a SAM and an F-16.
A Muslim teen with a $200 AK-47 who trades his life for a U.S. serviceman the government has spent a million dollars training, insuring, transporting and equipping is pulling down a return on investment of 500,000%...
And that’s the whole point of terrorism. To disrupt and bankrupt. To demoralize and monopolize. To win by absorbing a vastly disproportionate amount of your opponent’s time, money, thought, energy, and resources.
By that measure, the U.S. is losing the War on Terror it began the better part of a decade ago.
What’s the solution?
It’s simple, Doug says. It’s a national policy called “Mind your own business.” Don’t occupy other nations. And don’t bully them around with your foreign policy...
So what’s the investing takeaway from all this terror talk?
Your guess is as good as mine.
“Let me tell you the problem with investment advice,” Casey said, as he began to wrap things up. “Everybody’s got an opinion... Buy this, sell that... But if you don’t understand the context of the world you’re living in, you’re gonna be roadkill.”
There’s a lesson in there somewhere, I just know it.
Maybe you can figure it out from his full presentation (I’ve only hit a few of the high spots here) -- available now as CD or MP3 recordings of this prestigious event.
And at 16 minutes until my midnight deadline for this piece, I’ve got just enough time to give you the ordering specifics once more. Here they are...
Only 2 Business Days Left To Order
By the time you read this, it’ll be mid-day or afternoon on Friday...
And by midnight on Tuesday night -- just two more business days -- your chance to get the complete CD or MP3 recordings of the 2011 Agora Financial Investment Symposium at 33% OFF will be gone.
Once more, here are the specifics: For just $99, you’ll get complete digital, downloadable MP3 files of every marquis speaker’s presentation...
And for $149, you’ll get them all on CDs, in a special, durable and portable box set...
OR YOU CAN GET THEM BOTH FOR THE SAME $149 PRICE.
But again, you can only get these invaluable recordings at the best possible price for two more business days after this one.
So move fast -- order now and get it out of the way before the weekend. If you miss your chance on Tuesday, you’ll be kicking yourself when the price goes up...
Oops, 12:02AM. Gotta run. More to come tomorrow.
P.S. Remember, whichever option you choose (CD, MP3, of both), you’ll also get the complete report of all the specific investment picks our key speakers revealed in their special afternoon “breakout” sessions. These picks are the same ones conference attendees paid huge money and traveled thousands of miles to get -- and you can have them FREE, along with your order for these 2011 Symposium recordings...